A Glossary Of Terms For Use In Evaluating Political Debates

*Benford’s law of controversy: “Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available. The fewer facts are known to and agreed on by the participants, the more controversy there is, and the more is known the less controversy there is. Thus, controversies in physics are limited to areas where experiments cannot be carried out yet, whereas controversy is inherent to politics, where communities must frequently decide on courses of action based on insufficient information.”




ARGUMENT – To argue is to produce a series of statements designed to support a conclusion. A political argument consists of statements that form a narrative demonstrating that some set of actions will produce one or more outcomes, and that an alternative set of actions will produce a different set of outcomes, which will be more preferable than the first set of outcomes.



Curt Doolittle’s “Degrees Of Political Argument”*1, from least to most substantive: *1[capitalismv3.com 2011]

1) EXPRESSIVE (emotional): a type of argument where a person expresses a positive or negative opinion based upon his emotional response to the subject.

2) SENTIMENTAL (biological): a type of argument that relies upon one of the five (or six) human sentiments, and their artifacts as captured in human traditions, morals, or other unarticulated, but nevertheless consistently and universally demonstrated preferences and behaviors.

3) MORAL (normative) : a type of argument that relies upon a set of assumedly normative rules of whose origin is either (a)socially contractual, (b)biologically natural, (c) economically necessary, or even (d)divine.  (Also: RELIGIOUS)

4) RATIONAL (logical) – Most philosophical arguments rely upon contradiction and internal consistency rather than external correspondence.  

5) HISTORICAL (analogical): A spectrum of analogical arguments – from Historical to Anecdotal — that rely upon a relationship between a historical sequence of events, and a present sequence events, in order to suggest that the current events will come to the same conclusion as did the past events, or can be used to invalidate or validate assumptions about the current period.

6) SCIENTIFIC (directly empirical): The use of a set of measurements that produce data that can be used to prove or disprove an hypothesis, but which are subject to human cognitive biases and preferences. ie: ‘Bottom up analysis”

7) ECONOMIC: (indirectly empirical): The use of a set of measures consisting of uncontrolled variables, for the purpose of circumventing the problems of direct human inquiry into human preferences, by the process of capturing demonstrated preferences, as expressed by human exchanges, usually in the form of money. ie: “Top Down Analysis”. The weakness of economic arguments is caused by the elimination of properties and causes that are necessary for the process of aggregation.

8) RATIO-EMPIRICAL (Comprehensive: Using all above): A rationally articulated argument that makes use of economic, scientific, historical, normative and sentimental information to comprehensively prove that a position is defensible under all objections. NOTE: See “Styles of Argument” below.

9) OPERATIONAL:  Internally consistent (logical), Externally Correspondent (Instrumental), Operational (Possible), Falsifiable (negatively tested).

10) THE TAUTOLOGICAL TRUTH – Not so much an argument but the most parsimonious verbal statement is possible.

*Campbell’s law — “The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.”


– The Non-Rational Conversation –

0) EXPRESSION : a non rationally articulated display of emotion by an individual. While a subset of a , it is neither conversation, dialog or argument.

1) CONVERSATION : Interactive, spontaneous, unordered, exploratory communication between two or more people for the purposes of learning, forming friendships or alliances, coordinating activities or coordinating work.

– The Rational Dialog –

2) DIALOG (“Dialogue”) : A written or spoken conversational exchange between two or more people, one one or more topics.

3) DEBATE : a type of dialog where two or more people are committed to their points of view, and mean to win the debate, either by persuading the opponent, proving their argument correct, or proving the opponent’s argument where a judge or a jury, or polis must decide who wins the debate.

4) DIALECTIC : A type of dialogue between two or more people holding different points of view about a subject, who wish to establish the truth of the matter by dialogue, using reasoned arguments.

5) SOCRATIC ARGUMENT / SOCRATIC METHOD : A type of argument, spoken or written, that seeks to show how a given hypothesis leads to a contradiction; and forces the withdrawal of the hypothesis as false.

6) DISPUTATION : A formalized method of debate requiring fixed rules that demand dependence on traditional written authorities and the thorough understanding of each argument on each side, and which is designed to uncover and establish truths in theology and in sciences. (Much academic writing retains this scholastic form.)

7) ERISTIC / “Eristic Dialog” : a type of dialogue between two or more people where the aim of participants is to win the argument, not to work to discover a true or probable answer to any specific question or topic.” NOTE: An Eristic debate in a public forum, is effectively a form of propagada speech, that uses the ruse of productive debate for the purpose of creating an autistic propaganda message through a process of repetition.

– The Political Oratory –

8) RHETORIC / “Rhetorical argument”: A type of argument, spoken or written, between an orator or writer and an audience, that uses reason (logos), appeals to emotion (pathos), and appeals to community norms (ethos), to persuade the listeners to take the side of the argument presented.

9) APOLOGIA / “Apologetic Argument” / “Apologist” : A type of argument whereby an individual defends a religious, political, or cultural position or dogma through the systematic use of reason. An “Apologist” refers to authors, writers, editors or academic journals, and public leaders who commonly defend what are usually minority positions that are the subject of consistent or popular scrutiny.

10) POLEMIC : A type of speech intended to establish the supremacy of a single point of view by refuting an opposing point of view about a matter of significant public importance in Religion, Philosophy, Politics or Science.

11) PHILIPPIC : A type of speech that is emotive, fiery, damning, or a tirade, for the purpose of condemning, discrediting, disempowering, and ostracizing a particular political actor.

12) JEREMIAD : A long literary work, usually in prose, but sometimes in poetry, in which the author bitterly laments the state of society and its morals in a serious tone of sustained invective, and which contains a prophecy of society’s imminent downfall.

*Hanlon’s Razor – “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”


1) ANALOGY : A complex form of deductive argument, where a set of properties and causal relations of one set of particulars which is more complete, is compared to a second set of particulars that is less complete, which, once transferred, is then tested, thereby for the purpose of inferring the properties and causal relations of the second set of particulars. It is the process of transferring information and properties from one object of consideration to another object of consideration. An analogy uses an object with more and better understood content, to transfer properties and relations to an object with less or less well understood content, which then either confirms all or part of analogy and transfers some portion of the content, and/or exposes additional previously unobservable properties of the object, or it fails to confirm the analogy and no properties are transferred.

NOTE(This is a very complex topic but this is the correct definition. Induction is likely a subset of deduction where there are simply hidden or unstated steps, which this definition corrects, and which more accurately reflects the human cognitive process.)

– The Narratives –

a) PARABLE : A parable is an argumentative analogy consisting of a succinct fictional, or pseudo-historical story, in prose or verse, which illustrates one or more instructive principles, or lessons, or a normative principle (moral), where the characters are human beings.

b) FABLE : A form of argumentative analogy consisting of a succinct fictional story, in prose or verse, that features animals, mythical creatures, plants, inanimate objects, or forces of nature which are anthropomorphized, and that illustrate a moral lesson, which may at the end be expressed explicitly in a pithy maxim.

c) APOLOGUE : (Form of Fable) : A brief moral fable or allegorical story with pointed or exaggerated details, meant to serve as a pleasant vehicle for a moral doctrine or to convey a useful lesson without stating it explicitly. Unlike a fable, the moral is more important than the narrative details. As with the parable, the apologue is a tool of rhetorical argument used to convince or persuade. An apologue differs from a parable in that the parable is drawn from events which humans may experience, and is therefore supported by probability, but an apologue may be founded on supposed actions of fanciful charaters or inanimate things, and therefore does not require to be supported by probability.

d) ALLEGORY : an artistic and sophisticated form of rhetorical argument where a symbol, usually figurative or anthropological, is used to present an idea, principle or meaning, in literary form, such as a poem or novel, or in visual form, such as in painting or drawing. An allegory is a symbolic, artistically rendered, analogy. Ie Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”. Or “The Lord Of The Flies”, “Moby Dick”, and “No Country For Old Men”.

– The Sayings –

e) PROVERB : (a generally acknowledged statement of true wisdom) : A form of argumentative analogy consisting of a simple and concrete, often metaphorical saying, popularly known and commonly repeated, which expresses a principle of practical wisdom, based on common sense or the practical experience of humanity. “All that glitters is not gold.” “As you sow, so shall you reap.”

f) APHORISM : (advice about how to think) a concise statement containing a subjective wisdom based on common sense or the practical experience of humanity that is cleverly and pithily written, and easily remembered. “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”. “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts”. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. “It takes a wise man to discover a wise man”.

g) MAXIM : (advice about how to act) : A form of argumentative analogy consisting of a concise proverbial statement that describes and recommends a basic rule of human conduct. A Maxim is a proposition briefly expressed which teaches a moral truth and is susceptible of practical application. is a speculative rather than a practical proposition embodying a doctrine or the principles of a science.

h) METAPHOR : A poetic figure of speech that uses an image, story or tangible thing to represent a less tangible thing or some intangible quality or idea. Ie: “He runs like a wolf”. “Achilles Heel”. “Domino Effect” for the purpose of transferring properties and causal relations from one object of consideration to another.

I) SAW : proverb stated in a crass or colloquial language.

*Dunbar’s number / The Tipping Point — “A theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. While, no precise value has been proposed for Dunbar’s number, but a commonly cited approximation is 150, which is approximately the population that can be produced by two people over four generations: a complete family.”


1) WINNING / LOSING (complete) : A state where at least one party cannot raise further objections to the conclusions. (This does not require that he acknowledge losing, only that he cannot raise further objections to the conclusions given the argument put forward. It is good manners to simply state that your opponent has won, but it is more common that the winner declares victory.)

2) APORIA (null) : A state of insoluble impasse in an inquiry due to an unresolvable conflict between equally plausible yet inconsistent premises. ie: confusion.

3) ABANDONMENT / DEPARTURE (incomplete) : A state where one party uses one of a number of devices to exit the argument rather than continue to propose arguments, or raise objections to arguments.

*Dollo’s law — “An organism is unable to return, even partially, to a previous stage already realized in the ranks of its ancestors.” Simply put this law states that evolution is not reversible.


1) VIRTUE ETHICS (Character) which was advocated by Aristotle, focuses on the inherent character of a person rather than on the specific actions he or she performs.

2) DEONTOLOGICAL ETHICS (Rules) argues that decisions should be made considering one’s duties and other’s rights.
NOTE: I rely on a deontological method by arguing that if:
a) all individuals have a monopoly of control over themselves, and
b) all individuals have a monopoly of control over their property, and
c) all primary exchanges are voluntary and
d) expectations are symmetrical (each party is responsible for making sure the other is fully informed) and
e) the exchange causes no involuntary transfers
f) an action is moral, in the only meaningful sense of the word.
This ethical model places a burden on both parties, that the other will not regret his decision due to ignorance about the object being transferred at the moment it is transferred. And further than the exchange causes no secondary (external) transfers.
This differs from the ‘Bazaar Ethics’ of libertarian doctrine, in that I require symmetry of expectations, which I call “warrior ethics” – effectively warrants – on all transactions, so that the fraud that is encouraged by Bazaar ethics is avoided. In effect, I explicitly preserve the right of violence as a means of enforcing peaceful transactions.

3) TELEOLOGICAL ETHICS (Consequences) argues that the morality of an action is contingent on the action’s outcome or result. These ‘Consequentialist’ theories, differ by what they take to be valuable (Axiology), include:
a) Utilitarianism, which holds that an action is right if it leads to the most happiness for the greatest number of people.
b) Hedonism, which holds that an action is right if it maximizes pleasure amongst people.
c) Egoism, the belief that the moral person is the self-interested person, holds that an action is right if it maximizes good for the self.
d) Situation Ethics, which holds that the correct action to take is the one which creates the most loving result, and that love should always be our goal.
e) Intellectualism, which dictates that the best action is the one that best fosters and promotes knowledge.
f) Welfarism, which argues that the best action is the one that most increases economic well-being or welfare.
g) Preference utilitarianism, which holds that the best action is the one that leads to the most overall preference satisfaction.

*”Evolutionary psychology is by far the best universal theory of human motivation. Ignore it at your own peril.” – Bryan Caplan.


CONTINENTAL PHILOSOPHY : loosely stated, a system of traditional argument characterized by retention and respect for religious, cultural, national, moral, “spiritual” and other ideas that while comprehensible to, and used by humans, are inarticulately stated and as such incapable of direct analysis. Specifically, it is a label used by Anglo philosophers to discredit those branches of philosophy that do not meet the standards of the natural sciences. More generally, it refers to ‘historicism’, which in it’s simplest form is to give tradition and history weight in the argument.

ANALYTICAL PHILOSOPHY : A system of argument characterized by an emphasis on linguistic clarity: consisting of one or more statements, that is often achieved via modern formal logic, the analysis of language, and which is incorporates and is limited to the current findings of the natural sciences.”

POST-ANALYTIC PHILOSOPHY : A loose definition of a movement which retains the rigorous methods of analytical philosophy while abandoning the ‘transcendental’ goals in favor of pursuing utilitarian social goals. In practice, this movement is a form of irrationality that states that there is no such thing as objective truth. It is the very opposite of scientific reasoning.

PROPERTARIAN PHILOSOPHY (Testimonial Truth, Operationalism, and Falsification ism): 



1) DEDUCTION “complete” : The process by which a conclusion necessarily follows from a set of premises or hypotheses. “socrates is a living man. All living men have heads. Therefore socrates has a head”.

2) INDUCTION: “incomplete” : The process by which a conclusion may be inferred from multiple observations observations. More accurately, induction attempts to account for a lack of information by All swans that we know of are white, therefore all swans will most likely be white.”

3) ABDUCTION : “Best Guess” : The process by which a conclusion is sufficient (or nearly sufficient), but not necessary to determine a second conclusion. “(a)The lawn is wet, therefore (b) it might have rained.” Because there are a limited number of means by which the lawn could become wet.

NOTE: I operate under the principle, as did Popper, that the only form of reasoning is deduction, and that induction and abduction are means by which we take intermediate steps in our process of deduction (usually called ‘hidden’ statements) in order to account for limited information at our disposal.

*Gresham’s law — Typically stated as “Bad money drives good money out of circulation”, but more accurately “Bad money drives good money out of circulation if their exchange rate is set by law.”


0) Knowledge of identity. (We are aware of it)
1) Knowledge of consequence. (What changes in state we can observe)
2) Knowledge of use. (How to put it under our control to change states)
3) Knowledge of construction. (What its made of and how its made)
The burden of truth claims, is on demonstration of knowledge of construction.
One cannot make a truth claim without demonstrating knowledge of construction.


1) The logic of Identity: Categories
2) The logic of Names: Numbers, Names, Referents.
3) The Logic of Relations : Mathematics
4) The Logic of Causality : Physics
5) The Logic of Cooperation : Ethics of propertarian, voluntary exchange
6) The Logic of Language : Logic